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Receiving prescreened credit card offers in the mail is annoying to some people. This is particularly true if you already have the cards that you want and don’t plan to apply for more. Maybe you don’t want to take the chance of someone stealing your identity. Perhaps you simply hate the waste of paper. Fortunately, stopping credit card offers is easier than it appears.

What Are Prescreened or Unsolicited Credit Card Offers?

The majority of companies that send out new credit card offers use a prescreening process to determine whether you’re a good fit for their financial products. They use your credit report as the basis for this decision. The companies either ask a consumer reporting company for a list of people who meet certain criteria or to identify people from a list who meet certain criteria.

Most of the time, you see these offers in the mail, and they might tell you that you’re pre-approved or prequalified. However, you can also get credit card solicitations via email and phone.

Do Prescreened Offers Hurt Your Credit Score?

Although information from your credit report is used for prescreened offers, it doesn’t hurt your credit score. Despite this, you can still see which companies request information about you by reviewing your report. Similarly, it doesn’t hurt your credit score to opt out of receiving prescreened credit card offers.

How to Stop Credit Card Offers

You can take your name off of the lists that credit reporting agencies provide for prescreened offers. One way of doing this is calling 1-888-5OPTOUT, which should be included in your offer. This is a toll-free number for all of the national credit reporting agencies. If you prefer the web, you can visit OptOutPrescreen.com. This phone number and website also allow you to opt in again if you change your mind.

No matter which method you choose, you need to provide certain personal details. These include

  • name,
  • date of birth,
  • home phone number, and
  • Social Security number.

The agencies keep this information confidential and only use it to process your opt-out request. You have five-year and permanent options for excluding your name from prescreened lists. If you want to opt out for good, you have to sign the Permanent Opt-Out Election form that’s provided to you, and send it to the indicated address.

Another option for opting out of credit card offers is mailing a written request to each major consumer reporting agency. The request needs to include the same personal details, and it stops solicitations permanently.

After completion, your request will be processed within five days. However, it can take up to 60 days for the prescreened offers to stop showing up.

What Are the Benefits of Opting Out?

One major benefit of stopping credit card offers is that it reduces the likelihood of fraud. A criminal could open an account in your name and use it if he has some of your personal information and one of your prescreened offers from the mailbox or trash. By excluding your name from the consumer reporting angencies’ lists, you’re limiting access to your credit report and personal information to prevent fraud.

The other benefits are more obvious. Opting out reduces clutter in your mailbox. It also reduces landfill waste, which helps the environment.

It Does Not Stop All Offers

Although you can stop prescreened credit card offers, not all companies use the prescreening process. This means that opting out through the phone number and website above won’t keep all credit card offers out of your mailbox.

To stop unsolicited mail from such companies, you might have to contact each of them directly. You could also use the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service to opt out. This lasts for five years and puts your name on a “delete” list that many national marketers and organizations use. You can visit DMAchoice.org to register, or send $1 with a mail-in request. However, it still doesn’t stop all unsolicited mail because not all companies use this service.

To stop unsolicited emails, the DMA supplies an Email Preferences Service as well. You can visit the same website to register. Although it lasts for six years, it only works with DMA member companies.

Stopping unsolicited phone calls is even harder, but the federal government has set up the National Do Not Call Registry to help. To sign up, you can call toll-free 1-888-382-1222 from the phone you want to add to the Do Not Call list, or visit donotcall.gov to enter the required details. Telemarketing calls generally lessen within 31 days, and the addition of your phone number is permanent until you opt in again or your line is disconnected or reassigned.

If you already have a credit card, you will probably continue to receive emails, traditional mail and phone calls for new products or services. You can contact your credit card issuer about how to reduce these forms of communication.